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An Outdoors of EveryBody, One Step at a Time

“I believe that the outdoors is for everyBody—there’s space for everyone here.” - Celeste Thompson, Osprey Ambassador

In 2013, living in Maui, Hawaii, I worked at the airport where picturesque pamphlets and flyers depicted activities and landscapes that weren’t for me. I didn’t see myself in them.

As tourists came and went, I’d hear them talk about their favorite hikes on the island. I admired nature, but their experiences felt exclusive of me. Like I had to be someone else entirely, just to participate.

It wasn’t necessarily loud, or in my face. No one was outwardly saying “You don’t belong,” but the message was there—a silent topic I didn’t have the words to address.

Still, I knew I needed to find something that’d help me feel more alive; to challenge and reconnect with myself. I wanted to hike.

A woman wearing blue and purple hiking through the Nevada desert.

And so, I found myself in the parking lot for the Lāhainā Pali Trail. I remember looking at the trailhead, filled with fear and insecurity. What would people think? Could I even do this?

I thought about leaving, but something deep inside me coaxed me out of the safety of my car. The mountain, the volcanic rocks, the bright sky looked so perfect and inviting.

I put on my tacky, light blue backpack, decorated cheerfully with pins as a small source of reassurance to myself. It may not have fit well or been very comfortable, but with no experience or connection to the outdoor community I didn’t know any better. I began to hike.

Physically, Lāhainā Pali Trail was challenging, rugged and rocky. As I scrambled up, I felt I was being cooked by the sun and exposure. But the whole way up, nothing was worse than my own self-doubt telling me to go back.

Still, I pressed on towards the top, pushing down my insecurities as I rose above the Hawaiian coastline. I focused my attention on the trail and amazing view. I’m so glad I did.

As I made it to the top of the hike, looking out over the ocean, I was met with a perfect, deep orange sunset—a new and mesmerizing perspective. The red soil of the trail almost glowed in it.

Taking in the scene, I felt such a deep sense of appreciation for nature, and so empowered by my accomplishment. I’d conquered something that, just hours before, felt impossible to me.

The next day I woke up with a strong sense of pride. I knew I wanted to keep hiking.

To me, hiking is about enjoying nature while being part of the outdoor community. It’s a community I haven’t always felt welcome in, but that’s why I’m proud to be building that change.

I’ve learned to appreciate myself for who I am. I deserve to be here. EveryBody does.

A woman wearing a gray and purple hiking with hiking poles

I’ve since learned what gear and techniques help me go further and enjoy more. It was fun discovering little gadgets that’ve made hiking easier—poles, reservoirs and boots. Backpacks and clothing on the other hand, long felt like a dead end.

Even though we all come in different shapes and sizes, most backpacks I’d try were never designed with me in mind—a discouraging reminder that I wasn’t represented in this community.

As I gained my confidence, though, I decided to start an Instagram account, @fatgirlforthefitsoul(Opens in a new window), to become the representation I wish I’d seen as I took those first steps back in Hawaii.

My platform has since connected me with other people, groups and brands that are actively listening, learning and promoting inclusivity. After working with Osprey to help test and develop their new Extended Fit, I now hike with a pack that actually fits and works the way it’s supposed to. At last!

A woman facing in the Nevada desert wearing a teal backpack and holding her hands in the air

All these steps, big and small, help create a safe space that normalizes diversity outdoors.

Now, ten years after my first hike, my goal is to hike every state in 2023. Starting from scratch, my adventure begins in Sedona, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Cortez, Colorado before turning back around to hike in Nevada. After that, my travels take me to California, Oregon and Washington, with plans to visit the Midwest next.

I am excited to explore new places, have new experiences and meet new people, trail by trail along the way.

Keep up with Celeste’s journey as she tackles her 2023 hiking goals by following @fatgirlforthefitsoul (Opens in a new window)on Instagram.

A woman smiling and looking off into the distance while standing near a wooden bridge structure

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